tipsThe internet is filled with articles (including this website) with “tips.”  “8 tips on…”  “10 tips on…”  It can be so easy to read through them in their entirety and either get overwhelmed or distracted because one tip leads to the next, then on to the next.  Without integration in life there can be no true growth.  The tragedy with all the information overload that is available nowadays is that we tend to miss the important stuff.  We can buy self-help book after self-help book, but unless there is a genuine application of the material on a daily or weekly basis we are wasting our time, money and worse-our energy.  The key with a tip is to make a commitment to do it no matter how you feel until it becomes a habit.  After all you are adopting this tip to feel better or to get out of a rut so chances are you are not feeling so great when you begin.  For example,  cardiovascular exercise, we all know the many benefits of it, yet  how many of us have bought cardio equipment for home use then let it become a coat rack over time?  Gyms count on people buying memberships and not using them for this reason.

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chakraThe practice of Yoga has gained an immense popularity over the last few decades.  There are classes in gyms everywhere in small rural areas to cosmopolitan centers.  Among the benefits of participating consistently  in a well instructed class are good alignment, improved breathing and more spiritual connection (alignment through the Chakra system).  This last part is often forgotten or completely overlooked because yoga is often represented as simply another form of exercise.  Yoga means path or way.  The practice of the Asanas (poses in yoga) are meant as a way to connect to one’s center,  to source energy and spirit. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that effects your body, mind and spirit by practicing balance, strength and focus as we connect to the chakra system.  The words Yoga and Chakra were taken over by a flighty new age perspective at one point -it is important to reclaim them as they are refreshingly structured and grounded.  They are concepts that have been around for thousands of years and for good reasons.

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fengshuiFeng Shui is a practice  in aesthetics as well as optimal use of one’s surroundings.  Like Chinese medicine,  Feng Shui  is based on the principles of the flow of Chi energy; the life energy that is thought to be in all things in Chinese Philosophy, along with the Five Elemental Theory (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.  Like Chinese medicine and Martial Arts there are thousands of forms and schools of thought on this practice.  Some of these forms are very complex and use tools such as a compass or a calculator.  A professional is needed to perform these styles as they take a great deal of calculation and time.  The simplest important factor that connects most of the styles of Feng Shui is the basic principle of decluttering one’s space.  Clutter is where Chi flow gets stuck.

Feng Shui translates to wind and water-this basic premise alone is enough to understand the philosophy behind this ancient art form. It is the effect of the wind upon the water that is the image with which one is striving for.  When the wind flows across the water the water moves and curves to respond and to absorb its movement in an appropriate way just as our space which is a reflection of our lives hopefully can respond to and flow with life’s challenges and even celebrations.   The nature of wind and water is flowing or malleable.  They can both be very gentle or very powerful depending on how much force is behind them.  Feng Shui does not translate to stone and earth which are more stationary energies.  Flexibility and flowing clarity are sentiments in Chinese philosophy to practice through meditation and Feng Shui.

An example of how clutter can effect you is something most people have a challenge with-desk papers.  Every time you pass by those papers cluttering your desk,  it drains your energy because you feel negativity towards yourself (lazy, messy, not  perfect etc.) A good trick is to have a drawer that you can put all your current papers which you need to sort because they just keep coming and this way your eyes don’t have to be their victim each time you walk by.  Try to clear the drawer on a regular basis so you can use it for incoming mail and bills that need to be mailed or filed.

Another area where many of us get “stuck” is the closet-clothes!  A great tip a professional organizer friend of mine (www.simplifyou.com) gives for going through clothes in your closet are, when going through clothes ask yourself:  Does it fit?  Does it flatter? Is it in style or classic?  Does it project the image I want to project now?  If any answer is “no” release it!

It is also important to have balance in your life and to not spend time obsessing on your stuff.  Prioritize and streamline your eye level as much as possible by putting books and notebooks in the same direction as one another this is more pleasing to the eyes and gives your eyes and thoughts a rest.  You can get to the nitty-gritty work over time.  Nick knacks are best enjoyed when there is a rotation of them instead of all being displayed at once-put half away in a cupboard and when you take them out again they will seem like new.

The practice of Feng Shui is a daily, weekly, and lifelong practice and like exercise when done consistently and at reasonable levels, the best outcome is achieved.  Decluttering can be a frustrating and prolonged task but hang in there because it is worth it.  Also, I find going through old stuff and releasing what needs to be released can bring up old emotions and attachments -you may feel depressed or even anxious at times.  Honor these feelings and allow space for them.  It is natural after all that is why we hang on to things for so long.  Patience and prioritizing are key. Create specific, reasonable goals by chunking down the large goal of having a calm, well functioning space.  Remember that decluttering will help the flow and balance of Chi energy and help one’s presence of mind by keeping you in the present moment and in a better mood.

Bolsters and pillows for joints comfort

Supporting your joints with the right pillows is more important than you might think.  With good support as you sleep or rest on the couch, you can help retrain your body to be in better alignment.  You can also reinforce any training you are doing throughout the week.  Bolstering means to support or to strengthen.  A pillow that is not correct for your head and neck alignment can cause pain and discomfort down the road.  It can also lead to headaches.  This is so simply avoided by taking the time to find the right fit for you.

Bolstering can really help relieve your knees, lower back,  hip, neck  and shoulder joints.  The correct  pillow between your legs/knees aligns your hip and keeps them from knocking together.  They also allow your bones, muscles and ligaments to decompress because they are able to let go and feel supported.

It is soothing and comforting to use pillows this way.  For example. many of us hyper-extend our knees.  In this case, it’s great  to place a pillow under them while laying in a face up position watching t.v. or using a  a laptop computer as it helps decompress your tendons, ligaments and muscles.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

The cylindrical-shaped pillows are great for both your neck and knees. However, make sure that the size is not too large since you don’t want your head to be pushed too far forward.

Tempur-Pedic memory foam pillows are designed to cradle your head and make space for your shoulders to keep you in good alignment as you sleep.  This way your shoulder does not creep  up into your ears while you are sleeping.  Experiment with different ones till you find the brand that works best for you.  Be aware that some of them are expensive but they can keep you in comfort for over three years.  Generic brands can work well, but tend to wear out faster.  Both cylindrical and Tempur-Pedic type pillows are available at local medical supply stores and on the Web.

For neck and shoulders, use Tempur-Pedic contour pillows (memory foam).  For lower back, use wedge-shaped pillows by placing them under the knees.  Cylindrical-shaped pillows are used for either knees or neck.

Often I will place a heating pad directly on my Tempur-Pedic contoured pillow because the heat is then pressing just on the right spots  to to relieve my tense neck and shoulders.  Keeping these area as relaxed can prevent headaches and other aches and pains.  Be aware  that your pillow will probably not last as long doing this because it does wear down its firmness.  Do not use a heating pad if you have high blood pressure or any other condition where it is advised not to use heat.  Do not fall asleep with it on, and do not use for more than ten minutes as it can actually begin to tighten your muscles if placed on too long.

There is an emotionally supportive and restorative benefit to relaxing and feeling held by the pillows.  It is a great way to decompress and meditate at the end of the day.  Place your pillows strategically under your joints  to let them feel held and they will repay you in the long run.  Helping to relax your body will help you feel centered and connected with more focus and energy for your mind.